The key to having a healthy baby is to take good care of your own health. The healthier you are, the stronger your baby is likely to be.
What is Prenatal Care?
Prenatal care is the care you receive during pregnancy from a health care provider, like a doctor, midwife, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who will make sure you and your developing fetus are as healthy and strong as possible. Through regular checkups you will learn how to manage the discomforts of pregnancy, have any testing you may need, learn warning signs, and ask any questions you may have.
Prenatal care also includes advice on how mothers-to-be can best care for themselves. Learning about good nutrition, developing good eating habits, exercising sensibly, and getting plenty of rest are prime examples.
Can I Get Free or Low Cost Prenatal Care?
You may be eligible for FREE prenatal care through the Medicaid for Pregnant Women program offered at PPHP medical centers.
Medicaid for Pregnant Women offers complete pregnancy care and other health care services to women and teens who live in New York State and meet certain income guidelines. Call (800) 230-PLAN to find out if you are eligible.
What Happens During a Prenatal Visit?
Through discussions with your health care provider you will learn what works best and what habits might need changing for a healthy pregnancy. You may also be offered certain tests and physical exams to make sure you are healthy and the fetus is doing well.
Some common prenatal tests that identify possible birth defects and other abnormalities include:
- Alpha-fetoprotein or AFP -- a blood test that measures the risk for chromosome irregularities like Down syndrome, spina bifida (a spinal defect), and other birth defects.
- Cystic fibrosis -- a blood test that looks into a genetic disorder which affects the exocrine glands. There are usually no symptoms but can be serious in the advanced stages.
- Hemoglobin electrophoresis -- a blood test that checks for sickle cell disease. It’s a genetic disorder which can cause mild anemia or, in some cases, serious illness.
Blood testing can also isolate infections which could cause miscarriage or other problems.
Where Can I Get Prenatal Care?
What Else Can I Do?
It’s important to take care of yourself between visits. Here are some suggestions.
Eat Healthy Select balanced meals from the five food groups: grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. They provide important nutrients to you and your developing fetus.
Eat Often and Lighter Meals To avoid heartburn and discomfort, it’s best to eat 4 to 6 smaller meals a day instead of 3 bigger meals. Don’t overeat. To support your fetus’s growth, you only need 300 extra calories per day. Avoid excess fat, sugar, and sodium.
Drink Liquids Be sure to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water, juice, or milk every day.
Avoid Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs If you smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs, quit as soon as you know you are pregnant These dangerous habits can cause long-term harm to your baby. Ask your health care provider for resources to help you stop.
Take Prenatal Vitamins and Folic Acid One of the most important things a pregnant woman can do is to take folic acid – a B vitamin that can prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Take a multivitamin that contains 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid every day. Also, ask your health care provider if you need to take an iron or calcium supplement too.
Limit Caffeine Caffeine has many negative effects on healthy fetal development. Limit consumption to 200 milligrams per day (about the amount contained in a 12-ounce cup of coffee). Chocolate, soda, tea, and some over-the-counter medicines also contain caffeine. Read labels on food, drinks, and medicine to know how much caffeine you’re getting and ask your health care provider if you’re unsure
Exercise Sensibly Talk to your health care provider about what types of exercise and physical activity are best during pregnancy.
Be Careful About Medications Before taking any medication, even over-the-counter, consult your health care provider. Pain medications for headaches or antihistamines for colds that contain aspirin or ibuprofen can be harmful to the fetus.